The Other Woman

Menstuff® has compiled the following information on The Other Woman in Your Life

For ex-wives and stepmoms: A guide to getting along

"It's often not the obvious problems that cripple stepfamilies, but the small, mosquito-sized ones," says Marjorie Engel, Ph.D., a stepmom and president of the Stepfamily Association of America.

About 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce, the Census Bureau estimates, with roughly 75 percent of divorced people remarrying. That's a lot of stepfamilies -- and a lot of uneasy conversation. But interactions within extended families don't have to be unpleasant. Following some simple rules of etiquette can go a long way toward avoiding misunderstandings and emotional blowups.

Offer an Olive Branch

When divorced mom, Lynne Oxhorn-Ringwood called her 6-year-old son Evan's stepmom Louise Oxhorn one rainy morning, she started a storm of her own. Oxhorn-Ringwood knew she'd forgotten to pack Evan's raincoat decided to drop it off on her way to work.

"Was she kidding?" Oxhorn fumed afterward, "Did she honestly think we'd send Evan to school without a raincoat? How insulting!"

Establish some politeness and you will always have something to fall back on after exchanges like these. When you see the other woman, smile, make eye contact, say hello, and watch your body language. Yes, even she deserves these standard social graces

Avoid competition

If you're the ex-wife, try to avoid competitive parenting and keep in mind that it's good for kids to have one more positive adult role model. Don't just think of her as the new wife; think of her as someone who's important to the children.

If you're a stepmother, let the child's mom know that you're not trying to replace her -- you just want to do your part to help take care of the child. Ask her to share day-to-day information like schedules and changes in diet. But for issues such as discipline, it's best to reinforce her and your husband's decisions at first.

Call on the man in the middle

He's the one who got you both into this situation, but what's Dad's role in helping his ex and his new wife to get along?

Many men wind up taking the chameleon approach, says family therapist Marjorie Vego Krausz. "He'll side with whichever mom he's talking with because he doesn't want to make anyone angry." This might be nice in the moment, but doesn't work for anyone in the long run.

Sometimes it takes a conscious effort to step out of the spotlight to allow Dad to be a more assertive parent. The more involved he is, the easier it'll be for all the parents to get along.

Seize turning points

For Louise Oxhorn and Lynne Oxhorn-Ringwood, reconciliation started only after another blowup. Oxhorn was dropping off Evan, and the two women noticed they were wearing the same shoes. "I felt like my whole life had been stolen," Oxhorn remembers, "and I blew up."

Afterward, though, she was so sick at the thought that she and Evan's stepmom were still duking it out that she called to apologize. The mending conversations began from that point. Last year, Evan went off to college, and both moms were there to help him settle into his dorm.

Even if you don't get quite to that point, you can work out your differences. And with all the extra adults in your children's family, you can come to rely on one thing: Your kids will never lack for love.

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